I remember when I got my first grill. It was July of '04. The grill was a Weber Silver Genesis. A three-burner. It barely fit on the small deck at the top of the stairs that led into my second-floor apartment overlooking Battery Park in downtown Burlington. I recall christening the new grill with BBQ chicken wings and burgers on its inaugural "burn." A love affair with grilling was born that day.
"Weber's Big Book of Grilling" became my bible. The foreword by Al Roker told an inspiring story about that slimmed-down TV personality and grilling aficionado cooking on a charcoal Weber during a frightening downpour. The moral was not lost on me. There are fair-weather grillers and then there are the hardcore. I wanted to be in that latter circle.
I write all this because an interesting press release just crossed my desk that -- apparently inspired by the recent spate of snowstorms "enjoyed" by the Mid-Atlatic and Midwest states -- cites "Weber's Ways to Cook" to educate readers on the best methods for grilling during winter weather. I include the cited "Top Five Winter Weather Grilling Tips" below for all to read, with my own parenthetical comments that account for my personal Winter Grilling Challenges, which are mostly attributed to the fact that my gas grill is on a second-floor deck that faces windy Lake Champlain. Cold + Snow + Wind + Gas Burners = Extreme Grilling. (Refer to this video I shot to see what I mean.)
1. Brush snow off of your grill before preheating. It can lower the temperature inside, adding to your cooking time. (I do this half the time. The other half I just let the grill do the melting. Soooo much easier).
2. Allow twice the time to preheat the grill as it normally takes during moderate weather -- this means from the usual 10 to 15 minutes to 20 or 30. (Set it and forget it, I say. I am preheating my grill right now to get it ready for dinner, and it's only 11 AM).
3. Although it may be tempting with blowing snow, don't grill under an overhang or in a garage. Grilling in an enclosed space can trap deadly carbon monoxide. Keep the grill at least five feet away from flammable materials. (Sound advice. Heed it.)
4. Increase the recipe's recommended grilling temperature up a bit to generate enough heat to properly cook food -- usually around 20 percent higher. Also, it is most important in wintertime to use a meat thermometer to ensure food is cooked thoroughly. (Some say meat thermometers are for wussies. You know what else is for wussies? Food poisoning.)
5. Keep it simple. The best bets for cold weather grilling are foods that don't require much attention. Steaks, burgers or fish that need only one quick flip or large meats that can cook unattended without repeated basting work well. Multiple trips outside to the grill and the need to open and close the lid repeatedly are eliminated -- the latter adding cooking time as precious heat escapes. (Now I am hungry. On the menu for tonight? Chicken fajitas, using chicken breast with a southwestern rub, grilled to perfection and cut into fajita-friendly slices. Now THAT is how you grill in spite of winter weather).